The developers of Alpixel are no strangers to building stellar “choose your own adventure” apps. They are the recent App of the Week winners of The Stolen Stars, and share their top tips with the Corona community.
At Alpixel we had been getting our mobile apps division together for a while and we were convinced that with our background in the children’s education sector (developing games and RIAs), we could bring something new to interactive stories for touch devices.
We had a very clear idea that children should be able to take part in the adventure as that is what makes these stories so attractive in touch devices.
However, making an interactive story app wasn’t enough for us, plus the market was already saturated with these kinds of apps.
We wanted the child to feel like he/she was the main character, just as us adults do when we read a book we really like. This was the key to encouraging a child to read. One way of achieving this was with the “choose your own story” genre.
We had done a lot of research on apps for interactive books, most of which were really good, but we were surprised that no one had developed a “choose your own adventure” story, or at least we hadn’t come across any at that point.
The “choose your own story” genre appeared in the 70s and was very popular in the 80s. Even now my kids really love these kind of stories and I think that getting kids to take part in the adventure is great way to motivate them to read.
However, in printed books finding a page that corresponds to the decision made by the reader is a real pain and interrupts the reader’s pace. What’s more, these books were written for children aged 10-14. Touch mobile devices are perfect for these kind of stories!
The biggest disadvantage of finding the right page when reading a traditional “choose your own adventure” book is something that comes naturally in an interactive story and doesn’t interrupt the reader’s pace. Also, by using narrators, children of all ages can enjoy the story, not just 10-14 year olds.
So, we decided base our story app on the following guidelines:
Main Character: The child should be able to choose a boy or girl as the main character.
Personalizing: The child should be able to see his/her name in the story as the main character.
Changeable Story: The story should change according to the decisions made and the required interface should be integrated, without using windows or buttons to avoid the reader’s pace being interrupted.
It was the technical and functional challenges that concerned us most of all, but once we started using Corona SDK, we were pleasantly surprised at the speed of development and how powerful it was, which took us to another level, especially in usability:
We needed a responsive design for the app. On tablets, illustrations and texts are not placed one on top of the other, and this enables you to enjoy them in all their beauty. As for phones, we didn’t just scale down the tablet design, we made the illustration fill the whole screen and made it possible for the texts to be hidden.
Automatic male/female grammar correction. We developed an API that allowed us to edit the story efficiently by using a single text for the story, tagging the word or words that changed according to the main character’s gender. An additional dictionary was included for the tagged words and were automatically substituted according to the gender. We discovered, (for those of you who are language freaks) that the list of words that had to change according to the character’s gender were a lot less than we originally thought, at least in English and Spanish.
The Stolen Stars selection as App of Week motivates us to carry on, creating more of these fun adventures.
Oscar Rey Tajes